News in brief

June 5, 2008

Higher Education Founding Council

Report flags fiscal challenges

The university sector is in for a rocky road because of the UK's faltering economy, the chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England has cautioned. The warning from David Eastwood comes in an update to Hefce's strategic plan 2006-11, released to take account of changes that have occurred since last year's update. Professor Eastwood writes in the introduction that the next three years "will be particularly challenging for universities and colleges". He warns that institutions "face rising costs - particularly in relation to pay and pensions - during a time of increasing macroeconomic pressures". Within these tighter fiscal conditions, Hefce will continue to monitor the financial health of institutions "to ensure that diversity is maintained and they continue to play to their strengths", Professor Eastwood says. This is the last update to Hefce's current strategic plan. The funding council will now look to work with the sector to develop its strategic plan for 2009-14.

Public engagement in science

Virtual guidance centre launched

A virtual centre for public dialogue in science has been launched by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Innovation will provide information, guidance and advice to help public bodies to understand public views and concerns on controversial scientific issues. The centre has a budget of £1. million over the next year and a further £1.15 million will be available in grants to government departments and agencies to co-fund dialogue projects. The centre will be guided by a steering group led by Kathy Sykes, professor of sciences and society at the University of Bristol. It will be "championed" by the television and radio broadcaster Lord Winston, professor of fertility studies at Imperial College London.

- See: www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk

Medical research

All-star science teams assembled

One of the UK's major cancer research funders, Cancer Research UK, has announced a new approach to tackling some of cancer's most pressing scientific challenges. The charity says it will hand pick "crack teams" of up to five world-class scientists to work on emerging fields. Each group of researchers will form a limited company and will receive up to £500,000 over two years. Each project is expected to attract an industry partner, which will become a shareholder in the company. A team of British-based scientists has been selected for the first project: they will look at using cellular senescence - putting cells to sleep - to prevent the spread of cancers such as melanoma. Two further research projects are planned for 2009 and 2010.

CORRECTION

In the article "There may be trouble ahead" (8 April), the financial tables supplied by accountants Grant Thornton stated that London South Bank University received no overseas income during the 2006-07 academic year. London South Bank has indicated that it received £10,706,000 in overseas income during that financial period.

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